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Dozens detained in India over holy site social media comments

11 Nov 2019

Indian police have arrested dozens of people for social media comments that allegedly threatened “communal harmony” after the Supreme Court awarded a holy site once used for a mosque to Hindus, officials said Monday.

The site in the northern city of Ayodhya has in the past caused communal riots that have left thousands dead, and security forces have been on alert since the verdict was announced on Saturday. Hindu and Muslim leaders have called for calm. 

Police said the social media posts on platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Youtube had threatened “communal harmony”.

At least 77 people were arrested in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh — where Ayodhya is located — after the Supreme Court decision, a police statement said.

The statement added that authorities had acted against more than 8,270 posts, with steps including “reporting the posts to the social media platform” and “directly messaging the user to delete the message”.

Most of the content targeted — more than 2,800 posts — was on Twitter. There were 1,355 allegedly inflammatory comments on Facebook, and 98 YouTube videos, authorities said.

Eight other arrests were reported in the central state of Madhya Pradesh for social media comments.

A jail warden in the city of Gwalior was also arrested for celebrating with fireworks after Hindus were awarded the site.

A mosque had stood on the Ayodhya site for almost five centuries. But Hindus claim it was built over the birthplace of the warrior god Rama and a mob tore down the mosque in 1992, setting off riots in which 2,000 people were killed.

Muslims are to be given a separate plot of land in Ayodhya to build a new mosque under the Supreme Court ruling. Several Hindu nationalist leaders still face trial over the 1992 demolition.

Media reports said police cybercrime units are using “sentiment analysis” programmes to identify suspect social media posts. Some reports quoted a top Uttar Pradesh official as saying that several WhatsApp groups were asked to restrict their activities.


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